In My Father's House Are Many Mansions: Family and Community in Edgefield, South Carolina

By Orville Vernon Burton | Go to book overview

Introduction

By the grace of God, my kinfolk and I are Carolinians. . . . We are interested in our ancestors -- they were us in another age.

Ben Robertson, Red Hills and Cotton

The importance of family in the South, while long noted, has been little studied.1 This history of family and community in nineteenth-century Edgefield, South Carolina, is intended to convey the enormous richness and complexity of family and community life, a life complicated by the violent strains of slavery, Civil War, freedom, Reconstruction, and Redemption.2

In My Father's House investigates the actual experience of nineteenth- century Edgefield families by comparing black and white families within a single large community and by exploring the differences and similarities between the values of southern whites and Afro-Americans.* This study shows the ties that bound black and white together -- ties of exploitation and oppression, of charity and cooperation. It examines the cultural values and standards of behavior that parents and community leaders taught their children, the questions of infidelity, illegitimacy, one-person households, and single-parent families. Finally, it shows how different classes were tied together by life on the land and a common commitment to the preservation of "southern values."

This book is the product of a thorough study of letters and family histories, newspapers, former slave narratives, and local government and church records. Works drawing on such traditional sources tend to focus on the elite and therefore give an incomplete understanding of the agrarian South. This volume, however, tries to merge traditional historical sources with statistical analyses of census information on every household, family, and farm in the area. This comprehensive data base and the great amount of archival material

____________________
*
Afro-American and black are synonymous and can be taken to mean both blacks and mulattoes. In the analysis of differences between mulatto and nonmulatto Afro-Americans, however, "AfroAmerican" still refers to both groups, but "black" signifies nonmulatto. Mulatto means a person of mixed black and white parentage. The mixture was visible to the census enumerator, who determined the classification on the basis of physical appearance.
Household is used as a term distinct from the word family. Household is simply a unit of measure which refers to the census grouping listed as a household by the census enumerator. The household

-3-

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In My Father's House Are Many Mansions: Family and Community in Edgefield, South Carolina
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page v
  • Contents ix
  • List of Tables xi
  • List of Figures and Maps xiii
  • List of Illustrations xv
  • Preface xvii
  • Introduction 3
  • I. Edgefield, South Carolina 14
  • 2. Edgefield from the White Perspective 47
  • 3. the White Family Andlb Antebellum Social Structure 104
  • 4. the Slave Family 148
  • 5. the Free Afro-American in Antebellum Edgefield 203
  • 6. the Culture of Postbellum Afro-American Family Life 225
  • 7. Black and White Postbellum Household and Family Structure 260
  • Conclusion 314
  • Appendix I. Methodology 325
  • Appendix 2. Occupational Groupings 333
  • Notes 335
  • Bibliography 421
  • Index 463
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